Find your voice

One of the most difficult classes I took in graduate school focused on communication. In that class, we were often split into groups of 3 or 4 and tasked with writing a corporate memo to convey the most important information about a project to an executive team.

In a few cases, our professor gave us a pre-written memo and tasked our teams with revising it. These pre-written memos were often 5-6 pages in length.

Our goal was to cut it down to a single page. Without losing the key points.

Different voices

Every time you set out to write, you need to identify the voice you’ll use to communicate. Is this a single-page corporate memo? An academic research paper? Is this a romantic letter? Is this a blog?

The type of communication helps identify what kinds of voice will be most appropriate to engage your audience. Phrases and writing styles that work well in a personal letter to a relative across the country wouldn’t set the right tone in a dissertation.

Likewise, most academic writing is so dense as to make a more casual blog unapproachable.

Before you begin publishing, you need to understand the voices you use while writing. Take some time to review things you’ve written in the past – or spend time role-playing and writing different pieces in different imagined circumstances.

For a blog, the best voice you can use is your own. Don’t try to be anyone else. Don’t overthink your writing. Imagine you’re writing a note to a friend to explain an idea or follow up on a conversation you had over drinks. The casual voice and tone will make your writing approachable and easy to consume.

Getting started

Most of us don’t have years of previous writing to call back to. You might have a hoard of emails written for work or maybe a recipe or two written on a notebook in the kitchen. Regardless of how much writing you’ve done in the past, the easiest way to start writing today is to just start.

Pick a topic, pick an audience, and start writing.

After you’ve written one piece, write another. Then another.

Once you’re done writing at least five different pieces, take some time to re-read them and evaluate. Can you tell who the audience is? Does the voice you’ve used come across as conversational and friendly? Have you made your point made without too much pressure?

As you continue down the path of writing, it will become easier and easier to find your voice and “just write.”

To help you get started, here are four possible writing prompts.

  1. You are hosting a visitor from another country. They’ll be staying with you all weekend and want to get to know the city you call home. What will your weekend look like?
  2. One of your best friends from school asked you for advice on how to remodel their kitchen. They’re hyper-focused on the debate between granite and concrete countertops. Where do you stand and why?
  3. Some children at the nearby elementary school mistook you for a movie star. Their teacher doesn’t want to upset them and asked you to pretend to be that star and write the class a letter about your latest film project.
  4. Your partner is too busy to write holiday cards this year and wants you to write a brief letter to your friends and relatives about what the family has been up to over the past twelve months.

For each prompt, try to write a hundred or so words. Once you’re done with that, come up with a few topics of your own. The more you write, even if no one else ever reads it, the easier it will become to write and the faster you’ll find comfort in your own voice.